The world of cryptocurrency can be bewildering for the uninitiated, and its confusing word salad of terms doesn’t help. Here’s a primer with some basic vocabulary to get you started:
Private key: A critical code that allows access to a digital currency wallet. Think of it as a password that can’t be changed or reset, and if you lose it, there’s nowhere to turn for help. Crypto investors frequently store their private keys in several secure locations—in several formats, online and offline—to guard against loss. You can give out the public key associated with your crypto wallet (that’s how you receive funds), but if you ever share your private key, assume that the funds in that wallet will be compromised forever. And if you die without leaving your private key with your heirs, they’ll be out of luck.
Multi-sig wallet: A cryptocurrency account that requires more than one key to authorize a transaction. These keys can be divided among several people, so sending funds would require some or all of their approvals. A single person might use a multi-sig wallet simply for enhanced security, somewhat like two-factor authentication for a Google account.